Puppies are so dang cute. People love puppies (unless they are sick in the head). Puppy breath is an actual thing. For many people, it is absolutely heavenly. But dogs only stay puppies for so long. And it is during that time that the training must occur, or you risk owning a nuisance. Owning a dog isn’t easy. Loving one is super easy, but that romance, just like any other, will cool to a more normal and natural temperature over time.
This past weekend I was able to spend some time with a Newfoundland owner and breeder who has been in the game for a long time. Edie Koster is the owner of Royal Flush Newfoundlands. She has seen a lot over the years. During our brief conversation, we talked about the hours of hard work it takes to prepare a Newfoundland for things like draft cart and water work. She said, “People sometimes think that the dog just automatically does it. That’s not true at all, it takes long hours of training. There is no chip that I put in a dog to make it perform those tasks.”
When it comes to the various degrees that a dog (your Newfoundland) can earn, there are many, and each has a tier of more difficult levels to show a degree of mastery. While it is true that your Newfoundland might have a natural disposition for certain things, it still takes practice, practice, practice. Michael Jordan didn’t just step onto the court and dominate basketball. He spent thousands of hours in the gym to become the best. YOur Newfoundland may find a certain task easy, but to do it and adhere to the specifications required on a test day will take work. Also, there are numerous things that must be done to earn each degree. It isn’t as simple as “jump in the water” or “pull the cart”.
And then there is the conformation ring. It might seem as easy as going in, walking around the ring, and then picking up your ribbon. Your dog has to be taught to stand a certain way. It has to have its mouth and teeth looked at, allow a stranger’s hands to run over its body. ANd then there is the fact that there will be other dogs directly in front and/or behind you. Your dog can’t pay them a bit of notice. His or her eyes need to be fixed solely on you, waiting for the next command. You learn words like “stack” which is the term for your dog’s particular stance that is designed to highlight their strengths. All of that, and i haven’t even touched on the politics of a dog show…and YES…there are big politics at play.
You might be starting to think that this isn’t as easy as you originally thought. The thing is, I have only scratched the surface. Your Newfoundland is not an auto-pilot type of dog. They have huge personalities, and even bigger hearts. My Freyja gets brushed every single morning. When she is in public, people comment on how shiny and beautiful her coat is, and she hasn’t been in the ring for over a year now. I don’t brush her for the comments, I do it because her coat requires daily maintenance. Otherwise, you risk mats and clumped fur that will make your Newfoundland miserable. And while it may seem easy to brush a dog every day, remember that their coats don’t care how busy you are. For those of you with children, you know what the consequences are if your child does not brush their teeth. Well, this daily grooming is as important t the health and well-being of your Newfoundland as toothbrushing is to your child.
So, do not rush in to pick a puppy until you have made certain that you realize the work that will go into keeping it healthy and happy. It doesn’t matter if you just want one for a pet, the basic obedience and grooming are a must. They require time. I can’t say enough how important it is that you find your local club and meet other owners. Ask questions. No Newfoundland owner will ever tire of being asked about their special fur-baby. They will tell you all the fun stuff. And when you watch one at work, it will look easy. That is because of the hundreds of hours spent training and practicing. Maybe ask about their methods, how long they spend each day working with their Newfoundland. Maybe even ask how many times they took a test before they passed it and earned the degree. Oh yes, there will be those that spent the hours, travelled to the testing site…and then failed in the first few minutes.
So, it is true that it ain’t easy when it comes to owning a Newfoundland and helping it reach its fullest potential. And even if you just want a pet, the regular grooming and maintenance is going to be a considerable investment of time. But I can assure you that it will be an experience like no other. Just take lots of pictures, because that cute little puppy might arrive at your home weighing 20 pounds…but it won’t be long before it is anywhere from 100 to 160. It just won’t ever realize that it has grown so big. Be ready for that. And yeah…just more to love.